Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

The Joy of Patient Volunteers


Ask a patient to volunteer in your clinic or office - I guarantee it will add to the joy of medicine and the joy of life!

Mr. Joe sadly passed away recently.


I met Mr. Joe (as he was affectionately called) over 20 years ago. He was as a bean picker in the northern Baltimore suburbs as a young man, served in the Navy, and worked for decades at Western Electric. He married Christine and together they had five beautiful children.


Joe and Christine loved to dance, some would say lived to dance. Christine died unexpectedly several years ago, suffering through several challenging chronic illnesses. Because of Christine, Mr. Joe had been a frequent visitor to our general Internal Medicine practice. He was always positive, from his smile to his unwavering encouragement. In the months following Christine’s passing, Mr. Joe became withdrawn, missing our team with whom he had become so close.


With encouragement, Mr. Joe began to volunteer in our practice. Over the ensuing years he was a daily presence, always gracious, always spreading cheer, always offering a helpful hand. He even convinced his companion Joan to volunteer. He often joked that on rare occasions when he had conflicts that we could go ahead and dock his pay!


He touched the lives of hundreds of patients and staff members. In 2010, he was recognized as the Johns Hopkins volunteer of the year. In the last year, Mr. Joe, at the age of 87, became impaired by his own chronic illnesses. In the later months we missed his daily presence as he transitioned from volunteer to patient.


Our patients are our gift. They remind us every day that it is the human interaction in Medicine that defines the sacred bonds we form. I suspect many of you know patients who have made indelible impact on your personal and professional lives. So it is and will be for Mr. Joe, whose legacy will be for all of us he touched to pay forward his kindness and commitment.


When we think about our patients as people, the possibilities for mutual gain grow exponentially. For Mr. Joe and other retired patients, the power of volunteerism can add purpose and joy.


Mr. Joe was such an asset to our practice, taking care of necessary tasks like sorting mail and running errands. To get started engaging volunteers in your practice, just ask a patient you think might be interested, or might need the activity and human connection!